Influencer Marketing History

    Table of contents
  1. 1. History of influencer marketing
  2. 2. Overview and development
  3. 3. Advantages
  4. 4. Disadvantages
  5. 5. Relevance
  6. 6. Key case studies throughout influence marketing history

History of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing history is the story of how influencer marketing developed and evolved over time. What most people think of as influence marketing is a relatively new development. Today's influencers are everyday people who earned Internet fame or a passionate audience that cares about their opinions. Influencers can have as few as 1,000 followers and up into the millions. Micro influencers (a.k.a niche influencers), those with 1,000-100,000 followers, have influence over the purchase decisions and opinions of their followers, which is why they are still considered influencers like those with over 100,000 followers. Brands that know their influencer marketing history have an easier time predicting where it may go in the future and a deeper understanding of the field. 


Overview and development

Influencer marketing developed in the 1920s, although aspects of it go back further in history. In the 1920s, brands created personas that have the similar impact as today's social network influencers do. These personas weren't real people like modern influencers. They were characters like Tony the Tiger and Santa Claus. 

Consumers made emotional connections to these characters, and studies revealed that they even became more sympathetic to the brand because of the characters. Most people today associate Santa Claus with Christmas. This association is thanks to Coca-Cola. They weren't the first company to use Santa Claus in their marketing, but their Christmas campaign featuring Santa Claus was a big hit. 

The characters that brands created in the 1920s worked via conditioning. By pairing a neutral stimulus, the product, with a positive stimulus, the persona, brands created positive emotions in consumers that increased their chances of buying the product. Over time, these characters lost influence over the buying decisions of consumers. 

The next stage of influencer marketing history was celebrities as influencers. One of the reasons celebrities became the new influencers is because of the development of broadcast stations. Advertisements and commercials over those broadcast stations naturally created the opportunity for celebrities to promote a brand. 

As studies have shown, celebrities no longer have much influence over consumer behavior. It's online influencers that have taken over. An increasing number of influencer management companies together with the number of influencers are being developed, which is another indicator this field will continue expanding. 



  • Better Understanding: Brands that learn about influencer marketing history have a better understanding of this type of marketing. With a deeper understanding, they will notice key aspects that remain constant over the years. And they will be better equipped to make influence marketing work for them. 
  • Ideas: Learning about influencer marketing history can help brands come up with ideas for influencer marketing campaigns if they're inspired by a particular story. 



  • Time-Consuming: It not only takes time out of the day to research the history of influence marketing but brands don't receive an immediate reward from it either. Start-ups and small businesses may not have the time to devote to this research because generating sales is a pressing issue for new businesses. Fortunately, one can hire an influencer management agency to get around time constraints in a successful way.



Experts estimate that influence marketing will become a $5-$10 billion industry by 2020. One influence marketing company found that 92% of social network users trust recommendations from the people they follow. Marketers should know about influence marketing because it is quickly gaining steam and supplements social media marketing well. In fact, we would say social media marketing is getting to the point that working with influencers is no longer optional for small to medium businesses. 


Key case studies throughout influence marketing history

Here are the most noticeable influencer marketing case studies in these years. 

  • Mariah Carey + AirBnB: In 2015, AirBnB asked Mariah Carey to stay at some of their properties and leave a review on social media. The campaign was successful, so AirBnB continued to implement influence marketing in their marketing strategy. 
  • Nancy Green + Aunt Jemima: In 1890 Aunt Jemima, a brand of boxed pancakes, used Nancy Green's face on their product to help promote the brand. Nancy Green represented the character "Aunt Jemima". 
  • Loki + Mercedes Benz: Loki is a popular wolf-dog with an Instagram account. Mercedes Benz collaborated with Loki's owner Kelly Lund to shoot a car commercial with the wolf-dog. 
  • Microsoft + National Geographic: On International Women's Day, Microsoft partnered with National Geographic to feature 30 successful women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. National Geographic uploaded images of each woman working in the field bwith an inspiring overview of her story. In just one day, the campaign generated 3.5 million likes. 
  • Fiji Water: This water brand partnered with numerous influencers, including Danielle Bernstein, to expand beyond a hotel water brand. Trainer Eric Johnson filmed eight-minute workout videos with the influencers to help promote Fiji Water. The influencers shared the videos and images on Instagram with a shoutout to Fiji Water for hydration.